Following an action-packed pair of races two weeks ago at Motegi, the FIA World Touring Car Championship heads west to Shanghai where Citroën could claim back-to-back Manufacturers’ Championship crowns.
|2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship Rosneft Race of China|
|Date||25-27 September 2015||Lap Length||4.603km|
|Open Test Session||Fri 15:10-15:40||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:10-09:40|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:10-11:40||Qualifying Session 1||Sat 14:30-14:50|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 14:55-15:05||Qualifying Session 3||Sat 15:10-15:20|
|Race 1 (14 laps)||Sun 14:45-15:15||Race 2 (14 laps)||Sun 15:55-16:25|
Session times quoted in China Eastern Time (GMT + 08:00)
To have the World Touring Car Championship expand its reach into China was a long-term goal of former series promoter Marcello Lotti, a feat he proudly ticked off in 2011 when the field made its first appearance there in 2011 at the Tianma Circuit in Shanghai.
On what was effectively little more than an oversized karting circuit, the first event – while well-attended – didn’t produce much in the way of great racing, and so the series found a new home at the Shanghai International Circuit, albeit racing on the shortened ‘touring car’ layout.
Being another Hermann Tilke concept, the track features his trademark use of wide expanses, ultra-modern facilities, and the usual mix of tight corners, the occasional quick directional changes and a long straight fit for overtaking.
Built on what is now a drained swamp, the entire circuit is actually built on some 40,000 polystyrene piles as its foundation.
While the circuit is not renowned for providing fans with edge-of-their-seat Grand Prix races, as a touring car venue its layout produces plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing, certainly if past WTCC races here have been anything to go by.
The track’s 1.3-kilometre back straight presents a fierce test for engine and turbo power, not to mention good braking as the drivers try an overtaking move on each other.
One of the circuit’s trickiest sections is its first corner complex where the track doubles back on itself in an ever-tightening right-hander that feeds into a sudden double-apex left-hander. Opening-lap contact is not uncommon through this corner as cars jostle for position.
The Form Guide
Shanghai is the last of the circuits on this year’s calendar where the WTCC cars will have had any prior experience, with the upcoming rounds in Thailand and Qatar being all new adventures for the field as the 2015 season draws to a close.
The Chinese circuit is where Citroën wrapped up its inaugural Manufacturers’ Championship title last year, and barring disaster this weekend, the French carmaker looks set to repeat the feat once again on Sunday.
Should reigning champion José María López have a near-flawless weekend and his rivals hit trouble, the Argentine could also claim back-to-back titles here as well.
That is quite a long shot, as he’d need to claim pole position, a sixth place and a victory across the weekend while relying on his chief title rival and teammate Yvan Muller to fail to trouble the scorers at all.
The dark horse this weekend could be fellow Citroën runner and local driver Ma Qing Hua, who has extensive experience at this circuit in a range of machinery and will be determined to give his home fans reason to celebrate with victory in one of Sunday’s races. The Chinese driver’s confidence is continuing to grow after claiming a convincing victory at Vila Real and showed plenty of aggression last time out at Motegi.
The competitive showing from the field’s Honda Civic WTCC cars on home soil at Motegi a fortnight ago might not be repeated this weekend after the FIA adjusted its compensation weight calculations for the Shanghai round.
All of its cars will carry a hefty 40kg of compensation ballast after Gabriele Tarquini topped all practice sessions while in qualifying Norbert Michelisz managed to deprive Citroën of pole position for the first time in over a year.
While series-long championship leader José María López cruised to victory in Race 1, it was Tarquini who clocked the fastest lap of the race; the Italian’s teammate Tiago Monteiro put a new engine to good use in Race 2 with victory and his own fastest lap.
With qualifying and race performances from the preceding rounds at Paul Ricard, Vila Real and Motegi used to calculate the compensation weight for Shanghai, it has resulted in the Hondas picking up some extra weight, putting them 20kg shy of the 60kg in ballast that the dominant Citroën C-Elysées have carried almost all season.
The only other cars to have adjustments in their compensation weights are the RML Chevrolet Cruzes, which – aside from Race 2 podium-finisher Hugo Valente – ran well off the pace at Motegi. The marque’s six cars will lose the 10kg of ballast they were carrying in Japan, returning them to the same base weight being run by the ballast-free LADA Vestas.
Image via XPB Images